Sharing Strong Women: Sarah List

I'm back again with another awesome lady!! I actually got to know Sarah List when she was my high school chemistry teacher junior year. In addition to teaching, she is also the dance team coach and is soon to be a mom. Even when I was her student, I always saw her as an incredible role model in health and fitness and found her passion for teaching and coaching really inspiring. She has a lot of great advice today, so I hope you guys love it!

1 // Share a little bit about how you got into health and fitness and your journey.

My health and fitness journey definitely began towards the beginning of college when I started getting really sick before I learned I have Celiac disease. I experimented with lots of diet changes and met with lots of doctors. At the end of my freshman year, I started training for my first Miss Texas USA pageant and fell in love with health and fitness instead of just my usual—looking for a quick weight loss trick and yo-yo dieting. I then added a Health Science/Nutrition double major to my Chemical Engineering to learn as much as I could. Since then, I’ve just continued to love learning as much as I can (reading books & watching documentaries) about personal health and wellness and working to achieve a balance.

2 // I know you have Celiac disease and eat a gluten free diet. How have you been able to adapt your lifestyle to making those changes and how important has healthy nutrition been to you on your journey?

I definitely want to make sure to mention that a gluten-free diet is not healthier, and I only do it because I don’t have a choice. Limiting products with gluten is definitely a positive, but replacing them with gluten-free substitutes is not necessarily a healthy way of life. It was a challenge at first trying to eat gluten-free with such a busy, on-the-go schedule because you cannot find gluten-free, healthy options anywhere quick. I learned I have to plan ahead and bring healthy snacks everywhere.

3 // One of the main focuses of my blog is finding the balance between fit and fun. What is your routine like and how are you able to make time for health and fitness in your busy lifestyle, while still enjoying life and having fun?

This is the big question! I heard this saying early in college: “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.” It’s easier said than done. With a crazy busy schedule, it is near impossible to find the time for THREE hobbies. So, it hit me one day—find something that combines it all. This is when I started working at gyms teaching group fitness classes and dance classes. I made a little money, kept myself in shape (teaching the class and with a free gym membership), and got to design the class and keep my creative/fun side. Win-win scenario!

4 // Being a high school teacher and dance coach (and soon to be a mom!), how are you able to teach your students and dancers the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle on a day to day basis?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach a Nutritional Science course this year! The focus is on taking a holistic approach to health aligning with our school mission of Mind, Spirit, Body. We are looking at all the current nutrition controversies and topics will be addressed, including, but not limited to, fad diets, food labels, and eating disorders. I also love my opportunity to coach the dance team for the past 6 years. It is so wonderful for the girls to be a part of such a positive group of young ladies always pushing themselves to be their best physically, mentally, and in attitude. I just love my jobs! J
5 // Looking back on your college experience, what is one piece of (health and fitness related or not!) advice you would go back and give yourself?

Back then I used to obsess over calorie counting and analyzing every single thing I ate. It drives a person crazy and is so unhealthy! My outlook now is just making healthful choices and keeping a balance between carbs/protein/fat. I also used to over-exercise. Now I have learned the value in rest days. Our bodies need healing and a little TLC.

6 // Lastly, what is a healthy hack or tip (or snack!!) for the busy girl on the go?

I always keep a “treasure box” in my desk of healthy snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated like cashew packets, banana chips, and homemade superfood trail mixes. This way, if I’m starving between classes I will have a healthy snack right there instead of going to the cafeteria and getting junk food or candy. Another tip is drinking water ALL DAY. It keeps you full, helps with headaches and digestion, and you have better skin!

My Struggle with Body Image: Spilling the Tea #4

First and foremost, I do my best thinking in the shower. It's 10pm and normally by this time I would honestly be fast asleep, but I didn't want to lose my thought, so here we are.

When I was on vacation several weeks ago, I did a lot of thinking about why I write this blog. I came to the conclusion that, while writing is a creative outlet for me and I enjoy playing around with social media, the bottom line is: I've felt really out of place for most of my life and I want whoever reads my blog to know that they're not alone, whether that is 2 people or 2,000. Documenting my life on social media has really allowed me to be my most authentic self and authenticity has always been my #1 value. In striving to be my 100% authentic self, I felt compelled to share something in my life that is not a sunshine-y topic worthy of a pretty @balanced_baig Instagram post and that is: my struggle with food anxiety and my relationship with food. I felt that it would be kind of fake to wait years from now to write a post about this topic and be like "oh yep I'm cured here's the story!", so I'm choosing to share my journey from the beginning.

I don't need to give my whole life story, but I would say my senior year of high school was the first time I remember feeling negatively towards food, exercise, and my body. I (full disclosure) started taking birth control and it made me super hungry all the time. I gained ~15 pounds and, as soon as I realized it, I started counting calories and just being super nuts about working out and My Fitness Pal. Now I realize that, birth control or not, everyone's body changes as they get older and I was really just coming into my body, but, at the time, no matter how few calories I ate or how much I exercised, I always looked at myself as being chubbier than I was the day before. 

As I got to college, I stopped taking the pill and started learning more about health and wellness and got super interested in it, so I was focused on just being healthy and balanced, but I still felt soooo negatively about my body. I was around all these "perfect" sorority girls that had amazing bodies on their perfectly themed Instagrams and I got really down on myself about it for a long time. With the combination of so many new things on my plate and beating myself up about my body, I began feeling super anxious all the time where I couldn't sleep and didn't want to go out and be social and felt like that until right around May of this year. I had become super obsessed with health and wellness and just figuring out how to be the best version of myself and, with that new passion, I realized I was standing in my own way and holding myself back in literally every way possible.

In June, I started seeing a therapist every week and taking an anxiety medication. I'm figuring out how to work through my anxiety and how the overwhelming feelings I have really aren't about the food I'm eating or the way my body looks. Sometimes there are good days where I feel like I'm totally fine and other days I have to just take a few minutes to turn on my Headspace app and just take some deep breaths or cry. I have days where I think I could be a Victoria's Secret model and days where I get upset because I feel like a beached whale. But honestly, what inspired me to write this post was looking at a picture from the 4th of July today. At the time, I was like "my arms look fat" and "I just look chunky", but I looked at it today and thought "why don't I look like that now??". The thought that came to me (in the shower after looking at the picture hours before) is that, for the record, I weigh the same, my clothes fit the same, NOTHING is different about me. It's ALL a mind game that I play with myself. Before taking the steps to help heal myself this summer, I never realized I was just playing mean tricks on myself.

I'm getting rambly, but like I said, this is only the beginning of my journey. This isn't a post where I'm giving you "tips" on how to stop having food anxiety or negative feelings about your body. It's okay to ask your doctor or your mom or your boyfriend for help. It's okay to take medication for whatever you're struggling with (if you're prescribed it of course). It's okay to cry because you feel so stressed out and you can't figure out why. I've done all of these things (in the last month I might add) and I just want you to know, you're not alone or weird or out of place if you feel this way too. Bad habits and thought patterns take a long time to develop and I'm learning along that way that it's not something that is fixed overnight, but that's okay too.

I've never shared this piece of my life before because I've made this image and my Instagram off of being "balanced" and "healthy", so I felt like a fraud almost because deep down I struggle too. But I guess, at the end of the day, I can try the best I can to be my healthiest self, but nobody's perfect and my social media is the best photo of my best looking food. I post to inspire you guys to be healthy and also enjoy your treats because health and nutrition truly is what I'm really interested in and passionate about, but I also love cookies and ice cream and pizza. So, in conclusion, just know: behind the Instagram photo and "thought provoking" caption, I'm also encouraging myself to be a little better and a little more balanced every day. If you made this far, thanks for listening :) Until next time...

Thanks for reading xx

Sharing Strong Women: Dawn Scott

I am back today sharing another strong woman with you guys: Dawn Scott! Dawn is a business partner and motivator at CycleYou Lexington, co-owner of three Lexington restaurants, and a wife and mom of three kids. Needless to say, she has a lot going on, but is such an incredible example of prioritizing health and fitness in your busy lifestyle. I'm so proud to know her and am so grateful that she took the time to share her health and fitness journey on the blog today.

Share a little bit about your health and fitness journey and how you got started.

I have always loved fitness and group fitness classes. I love the energy of great music and a room full of people encouraging each other and working together as a team to be healthy. I always had a gym membership but found myself only using the group fitness classes and not really any other parts of the gym. As indoor cycling classes became more and more popular, I found myself having to get to the gym an hour early just to save my bike or spot in class and this was just way too time consuming and inconvenient. I occasionally took classes at Pure Barre and I loved the ability to save my spot ahead of time and to be able to take a class in a smaller and more intimate environment. I loved the "boutique feel" of smaller studios, but enjoyed a variety of workouts including cycling, kickboxing, barre, and strength training, so I began to research how I could bring a small studio to Lexington that offered a variety of workouts to keep you challenged in a small group and personable setting and also have the convenience to reserve your spot in class online. This led me to taking a leap of faith and I opened FIT in 2012 on Romany Road.

One of the main focuses of my blog is finding the balance between fit and fun. What is your fitness routine and how are you able to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying life and having fun?

I am a big believer that fitness has to be fun !!! That's why I'm a big group fitness fan. To me, it's all about creating a total body workout so that each workout gives you a cardio and strength component, so you're not stressing over how many days a week you do cardio versus strength training. I'm also a big fan of changing things up and doing something different so that you never get bored. In a week, I do TRX, cycling, barre, and a fusion strength training class and I never get bored. I think a great way to keep fitness fun is to have the right music to create energy, good vibes, and sometimes working out to the beat of the music. Music can absolutely make or break a good workout in my opinion :)
I think finding a balance between fitness and fun means finding a type of exercise that you actually enjoy. If you hate swimming, then obviously going to the YMCA to swim laps is not something that you're going to look forward to or make time for. There are so many ways to be active and if you just try a variety of things, you will find something that clicks for you and it will become enjoyable and something you actually look forward to.

I know you previously had another career. How did you decide to make that switch and what are some of the challenges you faced in the transition and how you overcame them?

I was a pharmaceutical rep for 17 years before making the shift to owning my own fitness studio. Towards the end of my career as a rep, I was not very happy and did not enjoy my job. I would dread going to work, I didn't feel a sense of purpose and was just going through the motions. I was about to turn 40 and I told myself one day that life is just too short to be miserable and that I wanted my footprint on this earth to be more impactful. With the support of my husband, my family and friends, I took the big leap of faith opening my own studio. It was scary, challenging, eye opening, and way harder than I ever imagined !!! I had a 3 year lease and although there were many days I wanted to give up, I was determined to make it and not give up on my dream. The first 3 years there were a lot of ups and downs, but then fate allowed Noelle and I to cross paths and I was able to merge with CycleYou and it has been an amazing partnership.

CycleYou is one of my favorite places and such a positive environment. What have you all done differently than other fitness studios that has made the business so successful?

Noelle and I both want working out to be a non-intimidating environment for all fitness levels and we truly want to make exercising as fun and enjoyable as possible. When we merged studios, we both had a vision to have a studio where you don't feel like you have to be decked out in make-up, hair done, and your best workout gear on in order to walk thru the doors. Noelle did a fabulous job designing the space and making it real and raw and imperfect just as we all can be on a day to day basis. Noelle is predominantly involved in the day to day runnings of the studio and she has always done a fabulous job of training the staff to give excellent customer service to our clients, keeping a clean environment and most of all making each and every client enjoy their "experience" from the time they walk in the door until they leave.

How do you manage your time running multiple businesses, being a wife and mom, and finding time to stay healthy?

Well, some days are better than others :) A lot of days I'm changing hats multiple times: teaching a class, delivering a catering order, then running Emily around, then teaching again, followed by planning workouts, making playlists, doing promotions for the restaurants, a little accounting work for Nick Ryan's...sometimes it's difficult to go back and forth but it's two things that I love and am just grateful each and every day to be able to do what I love and to work with and support my husband and our businesses. I admit I'm pretty bad at managing my time. I'm a bit of a procrastinator and sometimes it bites me in the butt!! But I think we all have crazy schedules and hectic lives juggling so many things and that's why I like to make sure the classes I teach are fun, welcoming, a little funny and not intimidating. It's so important to find that 1 hour of your day to dedicate to slowing down and making time for yourself and your health. I hope that people look forward to our classes at CycleYou as a place to unwind from the business of the world and focus on themselves.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women trying to decide what they want to do and where they want to go in life?

It sounds so cliche, but it's so true- do something that you LOVE, that you're proud of, and that you're passionate about. When you do what you love, it never feels like work. there will always be challenges to any career or profession but as long as the excitement outweighs the frustration, then you're in a good spot. It's easier said than done, but don't let the financial part of life allow you to make career decisions that make you unhappy. Don't wake up dreading going to work every day just for the money.

Lastly, one go-to healthy tip or hack for the busy girl on the go!

I always say don't let exercise be something that you dread or think you don't have time for. 15-20 minutes is better than nothing at all. It doesn't always have to be a full hour workout. If you've got a super busy schedule and only have 20-30 minutes then hit the floor with some push ups, planks, tricep dips, ab work, squats, and lunges. All you have to do is MOVE!!!

If you are in Lexington and haven't been to CycleYou, it is the most positive and uplifting environment and I can't say enough good things about Dawn's classes and really all the classes they offer, so check it out!!! Again, a huge thank you to Dawn for taking the time to write for me.

Follow CycleYou on Instagram here!

Thanks for reading xx

How to Have Your BEST Day + Wellness Trends I Love

I am very serious about my routines and when I find something I love, I really get into it. I do a lot of things in the morning and at night to help me find a sense of peace and balance. I tend to be a little stressed and frazzled, so having a routine with easy little things that make me feel good sets me up for really great day. I read a lot of blogs, watch YouTube videos, and listen to podcasts that are always offering up some kind of wellness "trend" and I'll pretty much try anything, so I'm going to share what I love with you guys today.

By 6:30/7:00am I'm usually up. As soon as I get up, I brush my teeth. I was kind of into reading about Ayurveda for a while and I read that you should brush your teeth and tongue before you drink water, so you aren't swallowing any of the gross bacteria that's been in your mouth while you're sleeping. Once I heard that, I couldn't get the picture out of my head, so I brush my teeth first thing. Also, the first thing I'm NOT doing is checking my messages or social media. That immediately makes me feel icky and like I'm wasting time so I try to avoid it til the afternoon.

Then, I meditate...I know I know, I feel like everyone is talking about meditation these days. I've only been doing this consistently for about two weeks. It helps me with my anxiety SO much. It is hard, but after a while you learn to just let go and be still for 10 minutes. I've tried Calm and Headspace and I like them both. I'm really hoping I can keep it up! I recently listened to a podcast with Lorna Jane (if you are familiar with her activewear line) and she said something that really resonated with me. Her morning mantra is: Move, Nourish, Believe. Basically, you just tell yourself, how you are going to move and nourish your body throughout the day and then the believe is kind of visualizing yourself really kicking ass in whatever you have to do that day. I like this because I don't always have time to journal, but it's a simple and easy way to put yourself in a positive state of mind.

After my meditation, I heat up some water and have a cup of warm water with lemon. I've heard this is good for digestion, but I drink it because I love the taste of lemon and like to have something warm when I first wake up that isn't coffee. I try to either walk my dog or stretch for like 15 minutes, but sometimes this doesn't happen. If it's nice (especially in the summer), I like to just sit outside for a minute and take a deep breath. 

So like I mentioned, I tend to get stressed and anxious really easily and a lot of times it's because I didn't give myself enough time to prepare. I'm usually leaving for work in the morning, so I make sure I have whatever snacks or meals I need ready to go before I have to walk out the door. I try to make sure I'm eating breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack, so I don't have that really starving feeling at 5pm. This sounds like common sense, but I know you can relate to that starving/hangry feeling and that doesn't help anybody, so giving yourself time to prepare really takes away that stress.

This tip is so boring, but water is key!!! I just got the big Hydroflask with the sippy cup straw and I'm usually filling that up like 6 or 7 times a day, which is crazy. Alright moving on, you know you need more water. I love coffee, but I really try to limit my caffeine because of my anxiety. I try to stick to only 2 cups per day.

Another boring tip that you know you should be doing: turn off your phone!! 
When I'm ready to wind down (probably 9pm if we're being honest), I set my Bedtime app alarm, put my phone on the charger, and take a hot shower. This relaxes me and most of the time I do my best reflecting when I'm in the shower. 

When I'm finished and I get in my pajamas, I get in bed and lay with my feet up. I'm obsessed with Melissa Wood Health and she always talks about laying with your feet up straight up against the wall to get your blood flowing. Once I started doing this, I fell in love and have to do this every night. I try to read one chapter of a library book (nothing crazy, usually a mystery) while I do this. If I'm not already dozing off, I'll write a little in my journal, but I try to always think of at least 3 things that I'm grateful for before I go to sleep. Continuously bringing gratitude into my life really helps me stay in a calm, positive mindset, so this is probably the most important part of my day.

Now, sometimes I don't get all of these things in every single day, but setting that as my ideal routine and just working towards little ways I can find some peace is key for me. When I give myself enough time to prepare and make time for little things I love, I'm setting myself up for my best day. I'm always posting on @balanced_baig when I try new wellness trends/hacks or (more importantly) healthy snacks or drinks that I read about, so make sure you're following along over there if you aren't already :)

Thanks for reading xx

Sharing Strong Women: Shelby Blakeman

Wow I am SO excited for today's post. While I love sharing my life on the blog, the truth is, I only know so much as a 20 year old. The idea to share the stories and advice of other strong women in my life and community, particularly in health and wellness, has been swirling around in my head for a while and I am so glad it is finally coming to fruition. I'm lucky that I have so many strong women around me that have set such an incredible example for me and I can't wait to share a few of them with you over the next few weeks.

Today, I'm introducing you guys to Shelby Blakeman. She just graduated this past May from the University of Kentucky and is a sorority sister of mine. During her time at UK, she became an instructor at Sweat Lex and started her own online boutique, Threads, that she will be relaunching soon. I'm so inspired by her hard work ethic, contagious positivity, outlook on health and fitness, and willingness to share her story on the blog. I know you guys will love her as much as I do!!!


Health to me isn’t just about what I eat and exercise. It is extremely important to me that my health be focused on MENTAL wellness first, body second. If I am working towards peace mentally, my physical health follows. I believe that a focus on physical health without mental health is not only ineffective for the long term, but potentially dangerous and can lead to a flawed relationship with food and exercise.

In high school I lost 40 pounds after becoming fed up with being unhappy with my body. I woke up one day with this thought: “I have one body. One single body and one life. I can choose to be miserable and unhealthy. Or I can see what happens if I work on loving my self and taking care of myself. I have nothing to lose. The time will pass anyway. Let’s try and stick with this and see what happens.” It was like someone lit a fire under my ass and I was ready to go and unstoppable. I hated working out but I would find ways to sweat that were fun for me like walks around my neighborhood & doing random stuff at the gym. As long as I was moving and active I felt good. The weight came off slowly (THE KEY TO MAINTAINING WEIGHT-LOSS!) and I stayed consistent.

Nutrition was absolutely KEY in my weight loss. I truly believe that if weight loss is the goal, your eating is the most important thing. I lost the weight over my senior year by eating healthy foods and cutting out JUNK! There is no MAGIC pill, potion, or workout routine and anyone who tries to sell you the “secret” is LYING.

While I am extremely impressed with my dedication, there wasn’t much of a balance- I don’t think I ate ice cream for like 6 months. (Can’t imagine going a week without it now) 😬 When I came to college I was able to eat healthily but was not taking care of my mental health and was really neglecting taking care of my brain. This started to play out in certain ways over the first two years of college but more on that later.

During my freshman year, I found Sweat Lex which is now where I teach barre and cycle classes. I discovered a love for group fitness. I really never looked forward to working out until I tried these classes. I LOVE the motivation that comes from being in a room of people sweating together. I started working the front desk at Sweat until almost 2 years ago my boss finally convinced me to become an instructor. After my training I realized this is my PASSION! I absolutely love teaching. To me every class is like a performance where I get to lead and inspire. Selecting my playlist, planning my classes, and meeting new clients truly refreshes me in a way that I treasure!! I am so grateful. I know Sweat and group fitness will be apart of my life forever- we’re opening a new location very soon and I can’t wait to teach there, it’s so exciting to see and be a part of the growth of the business.

Now that I have graduated college and am dipping my toes in the real world, I can’t help but reflect on the journey that I have been on with health and fitness over the last few years. I have lost and gained weight, ate super healthy and felt great and ate super healthy and felt like shit, felt amazing and confident in my body and the next day hated the way I looked. I have binged, I have messed up. After these struggles with body image/ body acceptance I have come to this conclusion. To achieve peace with our physical bodies YOU HAVE to start with your mental health.Because I was at what was supposed to be my “goal” weight. I was eating my idea of the “perfect” amount of calories in a day. I was STILL NOT HAPPY WITH MYSELF??! What!!! So frustrating.That’s when I realized I had to change what my idea of health was. Why did I think that achieving those goals was going to make me love myself if I didn’t love myself to begin with?It was time for a CHANGE. But now I have learned that breakdowns are sometimes right before breakthroughs. After living with overwhelming anxiety and depression and adhd for months I got help and I’m SOOO not ashamed! It was the best thing I EVER did. A year ago I started seeing my therapist and started taking medicine and I am in such a better place. I read self help books, meditate, watch a ton of inspiring YouTube videos and listen to podcasts and follow lots of positive accounts. I have become much more spiritual and in tune with the world around me. Now I believe that I am in control of 100% of my life (we all are) and know that I am capable of living the life I’ve always dreamed of.. right now I really feel that I am!!!!

Right now I am focused on mental well-being and learning more about healing my body with foods and holistic approaches after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.For me now it’s NOT about the numbers or macros or pounds it’s about nutrients and nourishment and strength. I’m working to achieve balance in all areas of my life. Now I do not believe in diets at all. The diet industry is designed to make money off of the consumer. I’m working on thinking of all foods as neutral (it takes time to not think of calories as evil since we are told that so much!!!) I love ice cream, pizza, wine, being lazy and I also love vegetables and taking care of my body.

I realize that I am so grateful for my body and all that it does for me!!! I also realize now that mindset is absolutely everything. We are all capable of having everything we want. Life is supposed to be easy and fun and playful... my goal is to help everyone else around me see that. So for now, you’ll find me decorating my house I just moved into with my bf of 6 years and new doggie (5 diy projects in progress at the moment)... teaching at Sweat, preparing for the relaunch and rebrand of my business Threads (cant wait), and working on making each day purposeful and wonderful. πŸ’•

Baigin thank you so much for letting me share my story and if I could share any advice to your readers it would be that your health journey is not linear and to be prepared for bumps along the road, to always love yourself through every stage even if you aren’t exactly where you want to be, and to view health as not just a way to change your external appearance but a way to invest in yourself. You only have one home so you might as well take care of itπŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

Follow Shelby on Instagram here and check out her classes at Sweat- I love her classes!!! 

Thanks for reading xx.

All About Abroad: Everything You Need to Know about Applications

Today's post includes just about everything you need to know about applying for study abroad programs. I'm going to roll out a couple different posts all about studying abroad as they come up during my semester in Barcelona, but for the first one, I wanted to talk all about the application process. Before we dive into that, I wanted to share a little news! 

So, in addition to what I have planned for my own site, I will be blogging this semester for ISA, which is the study abroad company that is organizing my program. They have a really awesome student blog where students from ISA programs all over the world share their travel experiences, so I'm so excited they chose me to share my mine!!! Stay tuned for that. I cannot wait for what is to come.

Back to today's post: there are so many factors to consider when applying and I know from experience it can get a little overwhelming, so I wanted to make sure I hit a lot of the major points, so that this post can serve as a resource when you're getting started. 

Start planning ahead.
The best thing you can do is start planning well in advance. For reference, I am doing a fall semester program and I started getting things together around December of last year and most of my deadlines were in March or April. If you're going abroad in the spring semester 2019, I would get rolling ASAP. Applications are no joke and take a lot of time and, if you are applying for scholarships especially, you want to get on top of the deadlines. You are probably going to be working on your applications and getting everything together throughout the semester and some documents that you have to submit take some time to acquire so stay on top of things and space things out so you don’t get so overwhelmed at the last minute. It depends on what country you are going to and where you live, but I had no idea I was going to have to travel from Kentucky to Chicago to apply for my student visa in person. These things aren't difficult if you are aware of them ahead of time.

Meet with an Education Abroad advisor and your academic advisor at your school.
I recommend meeting with your academic advisor first so that you can make sure you’re searching for programs that will have courses that transfer back to your university and count towards your degree. I remember getting my heart set on programs that didn’t end up having the classes that I needed for my minor, so if you go in only searching for the options that actually fit your plan you can avoid that disappointment. There is so much to take into consideration when you’re figuring out exactly what you want and need to do and talking with all of my advisors made everything seem much less overwhelming. My school offers an online portal where you can search programs and filter exactly what you’re looking for, so they can also talk you through the specific resources that your university offers. 

Figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a program.
Visit your school’s Education Abroad office if there is one, research online, and ask people you know that have gone abroad for advice. I was (and still am!) chatting up all my friends -and even strangers really- that went abroad and am talking their ears off. In my experience, every person I’ve talked to loves to share their experiences and stories, so really utilize those people. The reason I say this in regards to programs specifically is because there are so many different types of programs out there. I am doing mine through a third party provider (ISA) that specializes in study abroad experiences and typically has resources/staff near where you will be, but I know several people that have done direct exchanges through their universities. The real difference here is: going through a provider, it typically costs a little bit more, but you have a lot more guidance and “hand holding”, which is how my advisor described it. The direct exchanges through your school typically are less expensive, but you’re kind of on your own when you get there. That's a very general description, but basically, it's personal preference based on how much freedom and guidance you need. I go to college 20 minutes away from my parent’s house, so (even though I like to think I’m pretty independent) I wanted to have a little hand holding in case I do need it.

Money 101
Talk with your parents and make sure you have a clear idea of what you can and cannot afford. Similar to the class credits, it is disappointing to get your heart set on a program that ends up being way out of your budget. Research scholarships at your school, through various organizations you’re involved in, and in your community. I was so surprised that there really are so many scholarships specifically for students studying abroad, you just have to take the time to really research and put yourself out there. When you’re looking online it can seem so expensive (college tuition is honestly a racket), but you really can make studying abroad a relatively affordable option for you.

Be specific and make lists.
It’s crucial to make sure you are not missing any specific details because even leaving out one tiny thing could cause you to miss deadlines or not get credit for the classes you’re taking. Have all your deadlines written down and to-do lists for each application. For example, I knew I was only applying to one specific program, but I applied for about 6 different scholarships all through different organizations that had different requirements and deadlines. I made a list for every individual application, the deadlines for each, and every specific requirement that I had to complete for each. Make sure you keep track of even the tiniest details in whatever way you stay organized best. I have to have things on paper and on my computer. (If you guys want a post on how I specifically stay organized, let me know!)

If there is something I missed or that you want me to cover in the future about study abroad, let me know and I'll make it happen.

Thanks for reading xx

One Month of Budgeting + How to Make a Budget

It's August 1st. That means I have officially been following my new "budget" for one month. If you read my first Spilling the Tea post, I talked about how I had created an Excel spreadsheet to help keep me on track. But first, let me let you in on a secret... I am an Accounting major, but that's not because I'm good at managing my money LOL. My friends know me as the person that gets 5 Nordstrom packages delivered in one day and can't walk into a grocery store without buying $50 worth of things that I "read about online". I'm working on it, I promise.
In June, I did a horrible job saving. Like really bad. I saved some, but like I said, I'm kind of a shopaholic. So July was all about getting it together. Here are my tips and how I actually did at following said advice:

1 // Save eating out for special occasions.
Try to avoid swinging through the Starbucks drive thru in the morning and putting in your mobile Chipotle order on your way home from work. I know you do it because I do it too. I saved so much money making my coffee at home and saving my food budget for when I wanted to get together with friends over pancakes or Mexican food. 

Final Grade: B- 
(I went over my Food budget by $11. One-third of my Food expenses was spent at Starbucks... We can do better.)

2 // For the love of God, STOP online shopping.
This was harder than I care to admit. Do you follow fashion bloggers on Instagram that post 15 swipe up links a day? I do. My guilty pleasure is moms that shop at Loft...I know it's weird... (@purejoyhome and @mrscocowyse if you were wondering) At the end of the day, my success (I did not receive a SINGLE package) was due to me getting a grip and getting off Instagram. I missed the entire Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but I'm still breathing. I think that being on social media 24/7 gives us a feeling like we need to be like everybody else and sometimes I channel that negative feeling into buying clothes that other people have that I don't need? Someone tell me I'm not alone?!

Final Grade: A+++

3 // Pay attention to what you're spending.
I'm trying not to be cliche with my advice here, but let's be honest, you're probably (like me) spending way too much money without even realizing it. If you have a bank account, your bank probably has an app. If they do, download it. If they don't or you spend a lot of cash, you can always keep receipts. Every week (or day if you're especially OCD like I am) go through what you earned and what you spent. At the end of the week or month, you can go through and evaluate where you can improve. 

4 // Keep a spending log.
This is probably one of the more intense ways to get organized, but I will say, it works. It's also a lot less stressful than you might think. Like I said, all you have to do is sit down at the end of every week and go through what you're spending. I've gotten some experience using Excel at my internship this summer, so I made a spreadsheet with formulas, but honestly, you can keep a spending log with a notepad and the calculator on your phone. No matter which way you do it, just make sure you're keeping track. Living at home this summer I'm lucky that I don't have a ton of expenses, but you can adjust your budget accordingly. Basically you need to make sure you're outlining:
- what you're starting with and what your end goal is 
- your estimated income and expenses
- what's actually coming in
- what's actually going out
I have separate tabs in my spreadsheet to keep track of income and expenses. Here's what it looks like (yes I know it's a tad extra):

I tried to keep this post as simple as possible because I believe in starting small, where you are. We don't have to get complicated right off the bat. I'm all about baby steps. I know I like to stick to wellness topics on the blog, but financial wellness is a real thing. Even if you don't have specific financial goals right now as a high school or college student, it never hurts to keep your bank account in the green. Life happens and you never know when you're going to need those emergency funds. 

Thanks for reading xx.